The new Nancy Drew movie is being heavily promoted on the tele– yes, I do watch programming meant for thirteen-year-olds– and it’s re-kindled my interest in all things Nancy. As I’ve mentioned earlier on this blog, I grew up on the mystery series, starting them when I was seven. The books added substantially to my childhood vocabulary; words like ‘titian’ and ‘convertible’ were familiar only because this titian-haired girl detective zipped along in her blue convertible solving mystery after mystery. Incidentally, Nancy started out blonde and morphed into a redhead later. In her first adventure “The Secret of the Old Clock” (which I just happen to own), she’s described as a “blonde, blue-eyed”… “attractive girl of eighteen”; by the time of “The Clue of the Dancing Puppet” though, she’s gone red.
After reading A.O. Scott’s review of the film in this week’s New York Times, I’m realizing how differently I approached the Nancy Drew series. The review says:
The great appeal of the Nancy Drew books (the first was published in 1930), as of any mystery-novel series, lies not in the static, predictable characters but in the intricate, well-carpentered plots. What keeps the readers’ eyes on the page is the chance to look over the detective’s shoulder as she puzzles over clues, and to feel the tingle of apprehension when her sleuthing begins to get her in trouble.
No, no, and no. The mystery was never the appeal. Chapter 1 of “The Secret of the Old Clock” mentions a missing will, and even my seven-year-old self could guess then that directions to the will (if not the actual will) probably lay in an old clock. What fascinated me was Nancy Drew, who seemed the very personification of American cool. She received a car from her father for a birthday present! (My parents took me to the neighbourhood temple on my birthday.) She drank sodas and went to dances and camps! (Cola was Satan’s spit in my home.) She had exotic foods like strawberries and waffles at home! (I ate rice and white bread everyday). And most thrilling–she had a boyfriend that her father knew about. All terribly exciting for a seven-year-old girl in New Delhi who thought being an “air-hostess” was the height of glamor.
What I really cherished, I think, was Nancy’s effortless charm–anyone who wasn’t a villian loved Nancy and wanted to help her. She seemed to lead such a carefree life. The Nancy Drew I loved was popular and smart and over-all fabulous.
According to the review, however, the film makes Nancy the opposite of glamorous. She is, rather, a celebration of “heartland earnestness” and “sincerity”. She’s a bit nerdy, definitely small-town, and doesn’t fit into the glitzy Hollywood surroundings she finds herself in.
What were they thinking?
Nancy Drew is still part of my life. Whenever I need to spell my name out, (which, with a name like Niranjana, happens everyday), I go “N as in Nancy”, and think of the intrepid young detective. I don’t think I can see a film that reduces my American idol to a mystery-solving misfit, so I’ll be giving this one a miss.